Fennel-scented Italian-style Greek Potatoes With Greens – Sort-of Yahnera
This is a great way of using up leftover boiled potatoes – or you can boil some up specifically for this dish. Don’t, of course, bother to peel, but you may find, post-boiling, that quite a bit of the skin comes away naturally. I use all-purpose, smooth potatoes (go to The Eternal Potato Question for a list of these) for this.
The original concept for this recipe lies in a dish of potatoes and mixed greens (called yahnera) which were to be found the last time I was in Crete (some decades ago) in the markets in spring. The predominant flavour of these bunches comes from wild fennel, but they would also include a number of other plants – chrysanthemum for example, or pea shoots, sow thistle (Sonchus, a herb related to the dandelion family and looking very like it) , wild spinach or leeks, and sorrel.
The most reliable recipe for authentic Cretan greens with potatoes comes from Aglaia Kremezi’s The Foods of the Greek Islands: Cooking and Culture at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean. But I’m currently in Italy, so I have adapted the recipe for the ingredients that I can find here (also widely available, thankfully, in the UK).
Kremezi comments that often artichoke bottoms are also often added.
To intensify the fennel taste (in Crete they use more of the fennel fronds) you can also add some dry-fried fennel seeds, crushed briefly in a pestle and mortar.
If you have any spring onions which need using up, they would also be a good addition.
Recipe for Greco-Italian potatoes with greens
- 1 mild onion – red, or sweet
- 1 bulb fennel – reserve the fronds
- About ten medium potatoes – already boiled
- Smoked salt and Indonesian long pepper
- Olive oil for frying
- Juice and zest of a small lemon (couple of tbsps. of juice)
- 120g/4 oz mixed greens – spinach, green chard, lamb’s lettuce, young sorrel (nb no old, bitter leaves)
- Chop the fennel (reserving the fronds) and the onion and fry gently to soften.
- Slice the potatoes and add to the frying pan – add another glug or two of olive oil.
- Season with the salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile wash and roughly chop the greens.
- Cut the greens briefly into the potato mixture to warm through – they will just be beginning to wilt.
- Pour over the lemon juice – mix in well, reduce if necessary.
- Serve, adorned with the fennel fronds and the lemon zest.